Isiah, Reconsidered at Slate

Posted in Basketball at 2:46 pm by

Well, maybe not so much reconsidered as discussed by a writer less prone to puns than Vecsey. Stephen Metcalf, at Slate, delivers a fairly lengthy and somewhat less than full-throated defense of the Knicks Coach/GM. It’s not a defense of Isiah’s personnel decisions — I’m stuck trying to imagine a writer smooth enough to justify yesterday’s draft picks — as a presentation of a figure we might call Isiah Agonistes, “an angry and complicated man, no one’s native son, and a poster boy for nothing redemptive.” It’s interesting stuff, although Isiah, sadly, was unavailable for comment on the piece, since he’s hiding alongside a terrified Renaldo Balkman in a secret bunker seven stories beneath Madison Square Garden. Unless Spike Lee has those tactical nukes Rummy wants so badly, Zeke should be safe there.

Anyway, here’s Metcalf at somewhat more length:

Isiah Thomas was supposed to be the greatest ex-jock of all time. He is shrewd, articulate, fiercely competitive and, at least superficially, very likable. Since retiring as a player, he has done everything an ex-jock can do: He’s been an announcer, a coach, a general manager, and even, for a stretch, a kind of mini-mogul, owning the Continental Basketball Association, the minor leagues of basketball. He has done each, according to multiple reports, disastrously, though this may be a blushing understatement. Were it only a question of incompetence, of being yet another recyclable in the hermetic ecosystem of bad managerial talent that is pro sports, Isiah would not inspire anything like the enmity he does. For all his professional shortcomings, Thomas’ biggest liability may be a perception problem, rooted in his trademark smile.

Okay, so not entirely a defense — but when combined with the biographical and contextual analysis that follows, an interesting enough profile of a man who, if not really much of a tragic figure, is at least, for the moment, the nation’s most flagrantly obvious lame duck.

2 responses to “Isiah, Reconsidered at Slate”

  1. josh says:

    Great…he’s a nice guy, polite, articulate etc. He should date my niece (she liked Love & Basketball). Not run an NBA team.

  2. David Roth says:

    Metcalf agrees with you on Zeke’s rampant incompetence to run the team — he’s just really long-winded (a problem he and I share; that’s why I quoted such a small portion of his piece, to give me more room for gum flappin’), and it kind of gets buried amid all the detail. And I agree with you. Stephon Marbury agrees with you. I think most anyone who knows Isiah’s track record or has had to watch the team play the last few seasons agrees with you. But the Bluesman In Chief is the only one whose opinion really matters — so, yeah, Mardy and Renaldo it is.

    Also, it doesn’t seem like Isiah really is that nice a guy. But any CBA owner could’ve told you that.

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